Voices silenced

We heard on November 27 that Ottawa East News and Metro Ottawa, along with 38 other Metroland/Postmedia newspapers, will be gone by February. No one here cheered.

There is exasperation that perfectly good reporters are being let go. There are so many stories to be written about Sandy Hill people, places and actions—IMAGE’s own short list is a profile of Liz Sheehy (see Anneke’s letter, page 2) and an in-depth look at the just-released census tract data for our neighbourhood. Those two assignments are still on offer, by the way.

There is dismay at the loss of more “voices” in our neighbourhood. Bigger and more frequent newspapers are one reason IMAGE writers can “self-assign”.  Our people come up with their own topic or theme and enjoy meeting deadlines once they’ve asked questions, tracked down facts, inserted quotes and made the story easy to read.

There is nostalgia for days when the free and “wildly popular” Metro enlivened moments on the bus and in coffee shops, and Ottawa East News delivered news from community associations and stores.

Finally, there is anger that this was not gracefully done. The good folks at our printing establishment, who print the whole suite of regional Metroland papers, are still in shock a week later.

Our advice to you? It’s time to start paying more attention to local Twitter accounts and online blogs, and thankfully Sandy Hill people have a decent place to start.

Jennifer Cavanagh’s SandyHillSeen is a lively Twitter feed, which as she says “is always banging about the community”. Go ahead, spend some time there, at https://twitter.com/SandyHillSeen.

Cavanagh herself predicts these closures are going to boost the popularity of blogs. “The latest from PostMedia,” she writes, “spurs readership away from traditional papers to excellent Local (Steps from the Canal), National (Canadaland) and International (The Intercept) blogs.”

As for IMAGE, tweets, feeds and regular posts are not, at this point, us. We are a bunch of neighbours without the mission statement, central voice and skills that make it possible to respond quickly to breaking news. We take three full weeks to prepare and package our stories.

Nevertheless, we are getting IMAGE ready for the day when web presses might grind finally to a halt. We are making the time to tag and post stories for easier searching at the IMAGE website, where PDFs of back issues and advertising rate sheets have been available for years. With a new laptop, occasional access to IT consultants, and a small refreshment budget for workparties (our Future Fund wish list), we will get ourselves in position to offer more. If this sounds like fun and you have related skills and experience,  please call.

Other losses

With this issue, we say goodbye to Michel Prévost, who is retiring not only from his position as University of Ottawa archivist but also from the IMAGE column written faithfully for 25 years. He shed light on the very early days of the university, its moments of glory and its outstanding administrators. He told us about priests and politicians. About building projects and disastrous fires. About university collections and heritage events. He told us where the names on streets and structures came from.  And his illustrations! In the days before the archive was digitized, his big brown envelopes delivered photos old and new, big and small, glossy and matte, rumpled and brand new, each with a proper caption (names properly spelled) and credit. Merci, Michel.

We also, this fall, sadly lost the unforgettable Tim Creery, author of the DottyAge column once published in IMAGE. I first met Tim when he was Head of Research for the Royal Commission on Newspapers, set up when two daily newspapers folded on the same day. Plus ça change.

Jane Waterston